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Interview With Del Tha Funky Homosapien

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With six full-length solo albums, a founding role in seminal Oakland hip-hop crew Hieroglyphics and too many side projects and one-offs to count in his two decades in the game, Teren Delvon Jones, aka Del tha Funky Homosapien (or whatever variation of that spelling he feels like using on any given week), has long presided as the gateway between the independent and mainstream.

Del’s first two albums were recorded for Elektra, one of the larger labels in the early 90s, who terminated his contract in 1998 without warning before the release of his third LP, Future Development. Undaunted, Del instead pushed further underground, choosing to put all subsequent material out on Hiero Imperium, a label he co-owns with other similar artists.

While he achieved commercial success with his debut album’s single, “Mistadobalina,” Del’s first true mainstream recognition came when he penned the two memorable verses for the hit Gorillaz track, “Clint Eastwood,” in 2001.

In the years following his early millennium comeback, Del occupied himself with the aforementioned side-projects and his first solo album in eight years, 2008’s Eleventh Hour.

The record received mixed critical reception, prompting Del to release his latest record, the sarcastically titled Funkman (The Stimulus Package), for free download from his website. After a recent tour showcasing the new material, Del made his way to Sacramento on Sept. 26 for a brief set at the 28th and B St. Skatepark Hangar.

The Sacramento Press took refuge from the blazing Sacramento afternoon in a climate-controlled white minivan where the somewhat reclusive emcee was waiting and working on his omnipresent laptop after the show.

Clad in a Skull Candy shirt and baggy blue pants with a camo Plan B Skateboards hat over covering his turquoise doo-rag, Del looked more casual than most rappers, eschewing flashy jewelry for the nose and lip ring combination he’s had for the past few years.

The Funky Homosapien gave us a candid, one-on-one interview. The following are Del’s opinions on various topics taken from the half-hour conversation, which can be heard in its entirety by clicking on the following links. Warning, files contain some profanity:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The importance of learning music theory:

If you’re really into the music, you will naturally grow to that point where you’re tired of just working with samples and other people’s music and admire that so much you want to do that yourself. It got to the point where I did as much as I could with samples and I had to step it up to a keyboard.

I can write a little bit and I can read a little bit, but I’m like preschool with it. It takes me a long time to read music. I can read drum patterns better, so I find myself doing that.

But there was a point where I started getting real depressed and I started thinking, “What I got to do to sell?” Once I started learning music theory, that’s when that all vanished.

Sampling sounds in the hip-hop world:

People want to try to sue you for anything. If I sample one tone from somebody’s record because I like the timbre of that tone, that doesn’t mean that you should be able to sue me. You only got seven notes you playing anyway, so if that’s the case then everybody’s stealing from everybody. How many combinations are there? It’s a finite number, actually.

Like if I had a hit song and somebody rapped over it, yeah, I’d want to sue them. Because they’re getting paid off of my song. But if you take a part, and you do it [your own way], like you can tell that somebody did something to it, that’s the whole art of hip-hop.

Respect for hip-hop from other communities:

I definitely want people to respect hip-hop more. I don’t think it should be dying like it is and just fading away.

People in certain communities will look at this like it’s trash. Like if I want to get respect in the classical community they’re going to laugh at me. Like, “That ain’t music, you’re not playing the same old cats’ music over and over again the same way they did it. That’s the only thing that’s dope. That’s not dope."

Unoriginality in hip-hop:

I think the problem is there’s not enough solutions, actual solutions. Everybody’s complaining and they just state the facts. Like, “We dope deal, we shoot up people.” Ok, we know that, now what can we do about that? You don’t have any kind of suggestion or anything? You’re just gonna leave me with that news? It’s already frustrating.

Instead of just complaining about it, like, “Hip-hop is dead,” I’m trying to actively do something to show that it can grow.

They’re still trying to whoop that dead horse. Like, “You gonna keep buying it because it’s gangster.” Like, that’s not why we bought it. We bought it because it was interesting. Now, it ain’t no more, so leave us alone.

Inspiration for lyrics for his different projects:

My regular Del s*** is just everyday. Just real, what’s going on. I just have a crazy way at looking at stuff. But Deltron [a sci-fi-themed project with Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and DJ Kid Koala] takes more concentration, a bit more thought and planning. That’s the reason it ain’t done yet.

Musical tastes and their influence:

Funk is the core. Got a lot of funk, jazz occasionally. I like more funky jazz. The whole realm of black music, but anything that’s funky and got a beat to it I’m gonna fool with. Soul music, in that realm. But I like rock, too. Classic rock, stuff like that. Bands like Cream or Traffic. Frank Zappa is a big influence.

Put it this way: Me personally, I could understand Frank Zappa. So in my mind that tells me that I can do what he do. I’m not saying that I can write a composition the way he do, but I’m sure if he had the ability to use something like Live [music composition software for computers] back then, he’d have been juiced.

Record labels:

Oh, they suck like they always do. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about every single person that works for the industry, it’s just the machine and the people at the top are… they have access to be able to say how something works that they have no idea of what’s really going on. And it’s all based on money.

I want some money, too. But I’m not willing to sell my ass for it. My integrity means more and it lasts longer.

Piracy of music:

“Why don’t you just let people do whatever they’re going to do?” Cause you’re not gonna stop piracy. The whole point of crackers and hackers doing that is to see if they can do it. So the harder you make it to do, the more fun it is for them to crack it! That’s the whole point and they don’t get it. No matter how much you do to it.

There’s been times where I’ve been on the Internet and I’ve wanted to get something, but I couldn’t download it, so I was like, “Ok, I’m supposed to wait for you to send it to me?"

Posting his music online for free download:

I’m proud of my music. I have confidence in my music. “Try it out, you’re gonna respect me,” is what I’m saying.

Making music for enjoyment instead of profit:

That’s how it used to be. People bought these records because these dudes was incredible. But they didn’t make it for money. They made it because they was trying to release what they had to release throughout the day. That was their only joy or whatever. Was just doing their music. Now, it’s just commerce for a lot of people.

Yeah, I mean it’s a fringe benefit that I get some money out of it.

That’s really all I do. Fools write their 16 bars and they think that’s something. “Yeah I got a hot 16.” I’m like, “Dude, come on.” I be throwing away raps, I write so many raps. Hella raps, I don’t even use them. Just to express myself and it’s fun to do. Like, that’s entertaining. Combining rhymes to me is entertaining. So I just do it to entertain myself. It just so happened to turn into something that we could make some money off of.

Defining and developing his style:

I try to keep it as basic as possible, just basic character defects in people.

I mean I rap about the same stuff pretty much, but I go about it a different way because I’ve never been a gangster.

How the hip-hop scene has changed:

More commercialism. Just watered down. And people forgot about the origins. What it was about in the first place. Basically it was about avoiding conflict. “I’m gonna be fresher than you with my mind. I’m gonna break dance fresher than you. I’m gonna beat you with my graffiti piece.”

Attitude towards modern, commercial hip-hop:

I ain’t blind to it. But I don’t listen to radio. Like 50 Cent. He’s rhyming, but that’s like pop now. So it’s just the right place at the right time, but I think it’s gonna need a change in music. People are tired of hearing the same old thing.

Projects in the near future:

Automatic Static is coming out, that’s on the website. That’s three bucks, and I know ya’ll can afford it. Working on an album with A-Plus called Hypnotize, so that’s gonna be tight. Tame One and me did an album, Parallel Uni-Verses. Working with Psalm One, too. Attractive Sin. I don’t know what to do with that, so I might just give it away. And Parallel Thought produced that album. And I’m working on another album with Parallel called Delphonic.

Artists with whom he’d like to collaborate:

Snoop. Sugar Free. I’d love to collaborate with Sugar Free. He’s tight. He does things with vocals and with his voice that other rappers would be scared to try.

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